Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tricky Trump's "U" settlement

“U” is in quotes because it never was a true university. It was just another source of cash flowing into Trump’s pocket.

Part of Trump’s preparation for the inauguration is setting aside oodles of cash as compensation to the poor saps who got suckered into the now defunct Trump University. Plain and simple: Trump U was an intentional scam.

If you do not want to believe that of an incoming president, you are left with few options to explain the settlement imposed by the court (presided over by the Latino judge who Trump so maligned). As I see it, your one alternative explanation is that Trump failed miserably in the responsibility to choose faculty with impeccable credentials and integrity. That’s called incompetence. Or maybe call it culpable neglect.

Either way, this is a first as Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports in Details emerge on ‘Trump University’ settlement.

… as things stand, Donald Trump is poised to become the first American in history to headline a presidential inauguration and payoff the victims of an allegedly fraudulent scam in the same week.

I continue to think this is one of the under-appreciated parts of the president-elect’s background. The “Trump University” operation is awfully tough to defend, and it offers some striking parallels to the broader political circumstances: a controversial celebrity, eager to capitalize on his notoriety, made ridiculous and unrealistic claims, which he swore without evidence would produce amazing results. Those who chose to trust him, soon after, came to regret it.

The difference is, students from “Trump University” could file a civil suit, accusing Trump of orchestrating a fraud. Voters won’t have that luxury.

Let’s also note that the suit – which Trump promised not to settle, shortly before he settled – probably would have gone the plaintiff’s way had it continued. The New York Times had this report a few weeks ago:

Mr. Trump’s confident assertion clashes with the evidence gathered by prosecutors and plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case. Those documents include dozens of sworn statements by students and instructors, some of whom described the program as a scheme to cheat customers out of thousands of dollars, and sales playbooks that called for tapping into “the roller coaster of emotions” to get students to sign up.

In court, the president-elect would have contended with the personal and potentially damaging testimony of aggrieved students. One recounted in a legal filing that he had faced “strong pressure” to sign up for more expensive mentoring, including a push to increase his credit limit to pay for a $25,000 course. Another said his already difficult financial situation deteriorated further as a result of the program, leaving him “insolvent.” A third simply called it a “scam.”

We’ll never know how the case would have turned out, but the evidence against Trump painted a very ugly picture.

No American president has ever been accused of defrauding members of the public and knowingly running a scam operation, bilking unsuspecting victims of their money. It’s one of many reasons Donald J. Trump is in a league of his own.

One thing the voters will have in common with the victims of the Trump U fraud: “Those who chose to trust him, soon after, came to regret it.”

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